Some tennis players at Sony Open make time for round of golf


Special to the Miami Herald

What do Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Caroline Wozniacki and many other professional tennis players have in common?

Yes, they are all competing in the Sony Open that got under way this week, but what most people don’t realize is that those tennis players are also enthusiastic golfers.

During the Sony Open, there are off days for the players and other chunks of free time, so they will sneak off the tennis grounds and wander down the street less than a mile to Crandon Golf Course to get in a round or swat balls on the driving range.

These athletes can whack either a tennis ball or golf ball — and usually, they hit them hard and accurately.

"It’s the mental side of things that attracts these tennis players to golf," said Crandon head professional Tommy Chipman, who is used to seeing world-class tennis players visit his course during the two weeks of the Sony Open.

"The swings aren’t too different," Chipman said of hitting a golf ball and a tennis ball. "Also, golf and tennis for the most part are singular sports where you depend on yourself."

Another bonus is the fact that the tennis players can play golf without ruining the swing that they have worked long and hard to hone in order to make a living. That formula also works the opposite way — golfers, for the most part, can play tennis without hurting their golf swings.

Need proof? These days, golf’s all-time greatest player, Jack Nicklaus, now 74, probably plays as much tennis as he does golf.

Key Biscayne offers two of South Florida’s top and most beautiful sports venues — Crandon Golf Course and the Crandon Tennis Center — just minutes apart. "Heck, the tennis players can walk down here from the tennis courts to the golf course if they want," Chipman said.

However, when spotted playing golf, these top tennis players do get some strange looks. Puzzled expressions of, "What are you doing here?"

Nadal can explain that: "Golf is a game that also plays to the discipline I’ve acquired in tennis to stay calm under pressure."

The best melding of golf and tennis might be Rory McIlroy and fiancée Wozniacki. McIlroy was the No. 1 golfer in the world at one point, and Wozniacki also has held that same ranking in tennis. McIlroy is usually in attendance when Wozniacki plays in the Sony Open, and occasionally they hit Crandon Golf Course together.

"Wozniacki has a pretty nice golf swing," Chipman evaluated.

Crandon Golf Course reserves two tee times a day for Sony Open players.

"We like the tennis players coming here," Chipman said.

"They are all very gracious about signing a few autographs and then getting in the cart and playing their round," he said.

Hope for Haiti

The fifth annual Golf for Hope, Haiti tournament will be held April 11 at Miccosukee Golf and Country Club, 6401 Kendale Lakes Drive in Miami. For more information, call 786-247-8215. The tournament benefits the children of Haiti.

Golf awards

The 10th annual African-American Golfers Hall of Fame Conference and Golf Tournaments and the fourth annual African-American Collegiate and Youth Golfers Hall of Fame Ceremonies will be held May 22-26 at the Holiday Inn Express Hotel & Suites, 2485 Metrocentre Blvd., in West Palm Beach. Call 561-844-8774 for more information.

That’s a fact, Jack

Celine Dion is known for belting out powerful songs, and she can also belt a golf ball. Dion is a golf fanatic who owns a course, Le Mirage Golf Club, in Quebec.

Read more Golf stories from the Miami Herald

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